Be Bold!

Be Bold! That’s the takeaway phrase from my lunch meeting the other day with Dr. Bruce Heilman, Chancellor of the University of Richmond.

E BRUCE HEILMANMy friend Billy Burford arranged the luncheon so we could pick Dr. Heilman’s brain about fundraising. He’s done a lot of it in his career. And we wanted his advice on raising the rest of the money we need to launch Belltower Pictures and produce our first feature film, SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL.

When Dr. Heilman took over as President of the University of Richmond in 1971, the school was on the verge of bankruptcy. He set out to boldly change the course of the institution. And that’s exactly what he’s done over his 43-year association with UR.

Today, with a $2 billion endowment, the University of Richmond is on sound financial ground and is one of the most respected, prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

Dr. Heilman told us some of his stories. He talked about meeting with one potential donor and telling him about all the bold new initiatives the university was launching. He said he used the word bold several times in his presentation. When he finished, he asked the donor for $500,000. The man replied, “If it’s so bold, why didn’t you ask for a million?” Dr. Heilman upped his ask… and got what he wanted.

He told about the building program in his early days as president. He said they once started construction on a new building before they actually had all the money in hand. The message sent by that bold move: the University is on the move… building and growing. And the result: more donors jumped on the bandwagon and the funds quickly accumulated.

Dr. Heilman was generous with his guidance. But that two-word piece of advice will stick with me forever. And it applies to more than fundraising…

“Be bold,” he said. “Don’t be reckless or foolish… but be bold.”

Photo: Nikki Waterman/The Collegian
Photo: Nikki Waterman/The Collegian

The advice comes with credibility from a man who, at age 86, rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle solo 8,000 miles, literally around the United States. And next month, at age 88, he’ll set out on his Harley again for a month-long ride from Richmond to Alaska and back.

Be Bold! It’s not just a slogan. It’s a lifestyle.

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